When Winston-Salem resident Cloves Cook speaks to the world, she does so in living color.
Whether it’s an “environmental rant” or a social justice commentary, Cook, who signs her work simply “Cloves,” has found the best vehicle to get her messages out is through her painting. Very often, she is speaking from experience.
“My goal is for my art to become the mirror that reflects the joys, as well as the bittersweetness of life,” said the Chicago native. “That is what drives and inspires me.”
Cook’s apartment is like a window into her mind, cluttered with vibrant images, from abstracts to still lifes, and punctuated with notes about her plans for a given piece, photographs and quotations that inspire her. In acrylic and oil, she depicts images from recurring dreams and renderings that can only be derived from science fiction. Canvases of every size line her hallway, showcasing works in various stages of completion.
“I’m usually doing at least five paintings at once,” she related. “… It’s very therapeutic.”
Cook is currently working on conceptualizing a series that draws parallels between global events and Biblical prophecies. The mother of two estimates that she has more than 100 paintings in her collection.
“They are my babies, but I’ve sold a few,” she said. “You gotta let your children grow up and move on sometime.”
Cook says she has loved art since she was a girl, but was discouraged from pursuing it as a hobby or a career. It wasn’t until she discovered PBS’ instructional show “The Joy of Painting” featuring Bob Ross in 1988 that Cook was inspired to revisit her childhood passion.
“I got to the place where I started recording it because it was so soothing, and there was something in my head that said, ‘You can do that,’” she related. “It was very healing because it was something that I never got to bring to fruition as a child.”
As a member of the Associated Artists of Winston-Salem, Inc., Cook’s work has been on display in businesses all across town. Several of her pieces are currently on view at Buena Vista Eye. Next month, a group of her paintings will be on display at a local doctor’s office. Though she was reluctant to share her work at first, Cook says the interaction with her viewers and fans has become one of the most important aspects of her journey as an artist.
“I like to let people make their own assumptions and interpretations (about my work),” she said. “It’s a great way to create dialogue.”
Cook’s work has piqued the interest of Lee Mecum, an artists’ representative and owner of Art Pear Gallery on Coliseum Drive.
“I thought her work was interesting,” commented the city native. “I really liked that every piece of art she showed me had a story.”
Mecum, who has worked in the art world for more than a decade, said Cook’s unique voice sets her apart as an artist.
“One of the things I really like about Cloves is her sincerity,” she remarked. “She wants to make a statement with her art, and she wants to help people. She’s a very nurturing person – I liked that about her immediately.”
For Cook, painting is a source of peace and contentment. Through her work, she’s grappled with unemployment, single motherhood, cultural identity and a host of other challenges she’s faced along the way.
“I started painting as a form of therapy,” she said. “…It’s given me an outlet for all of the anxieties of life.”
With the help of the master’s in licensed professional counseling that Cook obtained from Grand Canyon University last spring, she hopes to share the healing power of art with a broader audience as an art therapist. She is also working on an e-book featuring a sampling of her works, the stories behind them and the lessons she has learned from the experiences.
Like the artist, Mecum says Cook’s work is resplendent with facets and layers
“She’s really got a story to tell… Her paintings appear to be very simple, but when you look closely at them, they have a very deep meaning, and I like that,” Mecum said. “There’s more than meets the eye.”